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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Boston Tea Party, 1773

The Boston Tea Party, 1773

Disgruntled American colonialists, in response to Great Britain’s tax on tea, dumped about forty-five tons of tea into Boston Harbor during what’s called the Boston Tea Party, 1773; a pivotal event leading into the Revolutionary War that triggered birth of the United States of America.

Tensions had been brewing for ten years prior to the Tea Party, based on the theme of taxation without representation. Because colonialists refused to pay high taxes imposed by the Townshend Acts of 1767, the British rescinded all taxes except a tax on tea, then made certain the taxed tea sold for a lower price than imported tea colonists could buy on the black market from growers in Holland. The ploy was that colonialists would purchase that tea, and in so doing endorse Britain’s right to tax the colonies. But the colonialists didn’t bite.

Key dates and events relating to the Boston Tea Party, 1773, include:

* 1763 French and Indian War with Britain concludes; Britain’s King George III looks to recoup war costs by placing heavy taxes on colonies

* 1767 British Townshend Acts levied to raise revenue, tighten customs enforcement, and assert imperial authority

* March 5, 1770 Boston Massacre: British soldiers guarding Boston Customs House kill three, injure eight more colonialists who are throwing snowballs at them

* May 1773 British rescind Townshend Act, with exception of tax on tea

* December 16, 1773 200 colonialists dressed as Mohawk Indians board three British ships and dump tea into Boston Harbor, aka the Boston Tea Party

* March 1774 With Massachusetts being the focal point of colonial unrest, Great Britain closes Boston Harbor

* April 19, 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord, both near Boston, mark beginning of Revolutionary War

* July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence signed

* 1783 End of Revolutionary War

Although taxation without representation was the battle cry of colonialists leading up to the decisive Revolutionary War, it was a lingering tax on tea that, in essence, put fuel on a simmering fire and led to lawlessness and, eventually, to war.

Being inept at collecting taxes on paint, paper, glass, lead, and tea imported into the colonies as legally required according to the Townshend Acts of 1767, in May 1773 the British Parliament rescinded all such taxes except on tea, then granted a virtual monopoly on tea imports into the colonies to the British East India Company. The Parliament did this by granting the British East India Company authority to sell tea directly to colonialists; in doing so bypassing colonial wholesale tea merchants.

But colonialists reacted by refusing to allow British East India Company ships laden with tea to dock in Philadelphia and New York. Although tea-laden ships did dock at Charleston, South Carolina, that tea was stored in warehouses for three years, then sold by patriots to help finance the revolution.

In essence, The Boston Tea Party 1773 wasn’t about tea, but instead about the taxes Great Britain was imposing on that tea.

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